Dear Aish Family,

I hope all of you had a meaningful and inspirational Rosh HaShana. Rosh HaShana is always special for me for two reasons. Firstly, I have been blowing Shofar in my father’s shul for over thirty years. As I have not been blessed by the Almighty with a sweet voice, this has become a special Mitzvah that I do on behalf of other Jews.

Secondly, my family and I get to spend a meal with Aish Board Member Isaac and Edie Gross and their family. Their home is a very warm and welcoming place to all that cross its threshold. Perhaps most famously that is where our leader and mentor, Rav Noach Weinberg ZT”L spent so many Shabbosim in America.

The conversation was spirited throughout the meal and touched on many topics affecting the Jewish people. At one point we discussed Uman. One of the most famous Chassidic masters, Rav Nachman of Breslov, is buried in Uman. He was known for his incredible love of all Jews and the Almighty. He felt that one should speak to the Almighty as they would to a best friend. A novel approach at the time. Rav Nachman was a great grandson of the Baal Sham Tov, the founder of Chassidus, and died a young man in 1810 at the age of thirty eight.

I was sitting across from Yumie Gross who grew up with Rav Noach’s presence in his home. I asked Yumie who has travelled to many spiritual places around the world what was the draw for over 60,000 Jews to travel to Uman for Rosh HaShana. Without missing a beat he said, “It’s a city of happiness.”

I pressed him on what he meant and he said when Jews come to Uman, they are just happy. No one is judging anyone and everyone accepts everyone else. It doesn’t matter how religious one is. It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic level one is on. The American billionaire stands beside the Israeli taxi driver and they celebrate together.

I was very moved by this description. We all have walls between us, keeping us from each other and the Almighty. Our job during these holy days is to tear down those walls. As Jews, we need to walk into these next few weeks and make sure we walk over to those we don’t know and embrace them. As Jews, we need to invite those that would not otherwise be in synagogue into our homes. As Jews, we need to be happy. Best wishes for a meaningful, inspirational, passionate, holy and joyous Yom Kippur.

Shabbat Shalom!

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